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Dell Inspiron 4150

  • Editors' rating
    7.7 Very good

Pros

  • Good performance and battery life
  • solid, straightforward design.

Cons

  • Only one USB port
  • no FireWire port
  • high-resolution 14.1in. screen may shrink screen elements too much for some users.

Dell’s Inspiron 4150 caters for people who are prepared to sacrifice a certain amount of portability, so long as, in return, they get a well-featured and fast notebook that can handle most applications with ease. Therefore, although this 2.85kg Mobile Pentium 4 system cannot be described as ultraportable, nor is it anything like as bulky and heavy as the 3.5kg-plus Inspiron 8200 series of genuine desktop replacement systems.

Our review sample was based on a 1.9GHz Mobile Pentium 4 processor, along with Intel’s 845 chipset and 256MB of DDR SDRAM (expandable to 1GB via two SODIMM sockets). Other models in the range come with Mobile Pentium 4 CPUs running from 1.6GHz up to 2GHz. The 4150 has a 14.1in. TFT display, which can either be a high-resolution SXGA+ (1,400 by 1,050 pixel) unit, as in our review system, or a more conventional -- and cheaper -- XGA (1,024 by 768 pixel) screen. The display is driven by ATI’s Mobility Radeon 7500 graphics accelerator with 32MB of DDR memory.

This is a two-spindle notebook, with a fast 5,400rpm 40GB IBM hard drive and either a floppy or a DVD/CD-RW combo drive in the modular bay. The second front-mounted bay holds the system’s 4,460mAh Li-ion battery.

Design-wise, the general look and feel is typical Inspiron -- which is to say, not particularly inspired. But it’s eminently practical and the look and feel can be enlivened by the use of optional snap-in coloured inserts for the lid and wrist-rest area. The 4150 comes with silver inserts as standard, but you can get Burlwood, Robins Egg Red, Black Leather, Birch Blue and Iridescent Jade -- the latter might prove popular with 'Big Brother' fans -- for £22 (ex. VAT) each if you so wish.

The Inspiron 4150 has a pretty standard set of I/O and expansion options -- serial, parallel, VGA, USB, infrared, PS/2, S-Video out, RJ11 (modem) and RJ45 (wired Ethernet). The single USB port is slightly disappointing, as is (for owners of MiniDV camcorders in particular) the absence of FireWire (IEEE 1394) connectivity. There are also two stacked Type II PC Card slots. If you require wireless 802.11b networking, you can either opt for a factory-fitted Mini-PCI card or purchase a PC Card adapter -- either solution will cost you an extra £100 (ex. VAT) on top of this system‘s £1,349 (ex. VAT) price tag. The 88-key keyboard is comfortable to type on, and there are dual pointing devices -- a trackpoint and a touchpad, each with a pair of mouse buttons.

It’s no surprise to see an impressive set of benchmarks from the Inspiron 4150, given its specification. Business and Content Creation Winstone scores of 39 and 24.9 respectively don’t quite make it into our ‘top 5’ charts for notebooks, but they do identify this as a system that will handle most mainstream and high-end applications with aplomb. The 4150 does join the top five 3D graphics performers, thanks to its fast 32MB ATI Radeon 7500 graphics chip. What’s particularly noteworthy, however, is the fact that the 4150 delivers two hours and 41 minutes of battery life under BatteryMark 4.01, which is very respectable for such a well-specified system.

Top ZDNET Reviews

The Inspiron 4150, which comes with a standard one-year collect and return warranty, would make an excellent choice for anyone who needs to take a powerful system on the road. It’s hardly lightweight at around 3kg, and it only has one USB port and lacks FireWire. But it performs well, delivers good battery life and comes with a competitive price tag.